This weekend Donald Trump issued a terrifying coronavirus update: the death toll could rival that of the First or Second World Wars. It’s unclear exactly what Trump meant by his statement, but it suggests he’s preparing for a death toll near 1 million:
I really believe we probably have never seen anything like these kind of numbers, maybe during the war — a world war. A World War I or II or something
White House estimates have put the total number of deaths at around 200,000. That’s significantly higher than U.S. deaths during WW1, which totaled 117,497. That represented 0.13% of the population at the time. If coronavirus were to claim the same proportion of lives today, that would total upwards of 400,000.
WW2 claimed many more lives in the U.S. with the death toll rising to 418,500. At the time, that was 0.3% of the total population. If COVID-19 deaths are as devastating, it would result in almost 1 million lives lost.
Each of those wars spanned a number of years. The coronavirus deaths Trump is referring to would take place over the space of a few months.
Trump didn’t appear to have made any calculations when he made the claim—but he does seem to be preparing for a worst-case scenario. COVID-19 has ravaged New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo says the number of cases is only just approaching its peak.
Across the rest of the nation, where travel in and out of hot spots like New York has been largely unrestricted, the number of new coronavirus cases has only just started to ramp up. So far there are more than 300,000 known cases of coronavirus in the U.S and over 8,000 people have died.
Mr. Trump could be intentionally inflating the number of deaths to benefit his reelection campaign. Some believe the death toll will be significantly lower at under 100,000. The president may be hoping to make his response to the coronavirus look better by exiting the crisis with fewer deaths than originally forecast.
Last modified: June 24, 2020 1:03 AM UTC